A group of consumer advocates on Tuesday condemned the new YouTube Kids mobile app for targeting young kids with unwarranted and misleading advertising, calling for a thorough investigation into the matter by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In a letter to the federal regulatory body, the consumer advocates’ group wrote, “The fact that children are viewing the videos on a tablet or smartphone screen instead of on a television screen does not make it any less unfair and deceptive.”
The consumer groups in their letter claimed that the videos in the YouTube Kids mobile app mix the entertainment and commercial content in such a way that it shouldn’t be allowed on the television.
The app was introduced by the search engine company Google in February. The tech giant has claimed the app as a ‘safer’ place for children for exploring the videos as it was restricted to ‘family-focused content.’
According to the consumer activists, the app is over-stuffed with product placements and advertisements that it becomes very tough for them to differentiate between commercials and entertainment.
Angela Campbell, from the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law, said, “As a consumer, you should have the right to know who is trying to persuade you.”
Campbell, who provided legal counsel to coalition, said, “Especially in case of young kids, it takes unfair advantage of their trusting nature and lack of experience.”
Defending the allegations in a statement on Tuesday, YouTube said, “We worked with numerous partners and child advocacy groups when developing YouTube Kids. While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions, including the suggestion that no free, ad-supported experience for kids will ever be acceptable. We disagree and think that great content shouldn’t be reserved for only those families who can afford it.”
Shimrit Ben-Yair, product manager of the app, wrote in a blog post on February, “Now, parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids.”
The consumer activists said that the digital media must follow the same rules as set for television to limit the commercial content on the programming related to the children.
YouTube was incepted in the year 2005 and has since then become the most popular online video site of the world, with over one billion users.